Emanuel Shahaf

Israel in the Box of Self-Deception

While on a short trip abroad visiting family I came across an interesting book which explains a lot of what we are doing here. The book is called “Leadership and Self-Deception” and it is published by the Arbinger Institute. While written for the business sector describing in detail the implications of self-deception by business leaders on the productivity and success of their companies and coworkers, its conclusions are certainly applicable to our own conflict situation here.

The thought of how much that is true hit me after recalling dozens of articles and comments on the ToI blog that have tried (and try now as I am writing) to relentlessly browbeat the reader into a certain vision of reality, one that leaves no doubt that no matter what Israel did or does, not only was it the right thing to do at the time (regardless of how miserable the outcome), but that we must also continue to do the same and more of the same. This while totally disregarding Albert Einstein’s dictum that if you keep doing something which gives you one type of result and you keep doing the same expecting to get a different result, it is the very definition of of insanity.

But as Jews in the Land of Israel, we are not obliged to a rational analysis of the situation. Don’t confuse us with facts. We are a powerful nation. G-d is with us, after all. We are doing his work, settling the land.

For some reason though, despite trying so hard and becoming ever more faithful in the process, the going doesn’t get easier with time, it’s even becoming more difficult, more expensive, scarier, bloodier, less predictable. But that doesn’t deter us. It doesn’t even occur to us that we just may be doing something wrong. Could this be a sign from above? No way ! Couldn’t be.

Most people seem to either think we are doing O.K. or we can’t do any better or else, don’t care either way because they are too busy trying to keep their head above water in our cut-throat economy. We must absolutely avoid looking at the facts as they are. We must realize that we live in a world where most of the people are either Anti-Semites or radical Muslims or both. They aren’t really people, they are objects to be dealt with. That by itself is enough to convince ourselves, again and again that we are doing the right thing.

So now that we have established the basics for our existence here, everything else comes easy. Self doubt ? Why ? Live with 2.5 million Palestinians without political and other civil rights ? What can we do ? There is, after all, no partner.  Turkey is an important player in the region? What can we do if Erdogan is an Anti-Semite ? Egypt is an important player in the region ? Hey, the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t like Jews, hates Israel. Mursi doesn’t even mention the name of our country.

So we sit tight. Don’t do a thing. Let’s concentrate on our own piece of land, on our social and economic problems. G-d knows, there are enough of them. No need to bother with the neighbors. They aren’t ready for us anyway, they are stuck in the Middle-Ages –  our Prime Minister said so.

We started to betray ourselves, our values of humanity, quite a few years ago, when we decided that living with an occupation is acceptable, that it is acceptable to have a population live without civil rights right next to our enlightened democracy. That it is alright to give preference to Jews in the territories and not only there.

In the beginning it gave us a feeling of uneasiness. We do, after all subscribe to the notion of civil rights, and the world didn’t approve of our way of handling the territories, never did, never will. We once even made a serious attempt to deal with the problem, but that didn’t work out. So eventually we needed to close the dissonance between what we were doing and our own values. And we progressively have closed it, quite successfully, we have become experts at self-deception. We have convinced ourselves that we are entitled to all of the land since it’s the Land of Israel and that there is no Palestinian People, they are terrorists (mostly). In any case, there is no partner for compromise and we topped it all off by having the Levy commission declare that this isn’t really an occupation. Having closed the loop the way we did, is it surprising that we keep telling ourselves that we are the victims and the other side are the perpetrators?

Now the problem is that our self-deception makes it really easy for the other side to practice their’s. If it’s the neighboring Arab countries or the Palestinians, they have an easy time to paint a picture of Israel and Jews in general that suits their own self-deception like a glove. Israelis are cruel, inhuman, conniving, not to be trusted, bullies etc. They definitely don’t want peace and don’t want compromise.

The leadership on both sides is satisfied by virtue of self-deception and happily continues with its practice until the next war. And may common sense be damned !

A society that continues to deceive itself to maintain a perverted view of reality, is going to be in for a rough awakening. Sooner or later.  Because reality has a way of hitting you back, mostly into the face.

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".